Data Center Tech Blog

This year’s Storage Visions conference (SV2015), held right before the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, showed me that data center transformation will require new thinking for storage.

The driver for change starts with new sources of data—sensor data, medical images, video files and geographic data (GIS) and mobility data (from consumers’ mobile phones) — that are being piled on top of traditional production data with employee databases and transactional data. More than 30 speakers, from storage companies and analyst firms, showed how storage is evolving in the data center, bringing technology refresh for hard-disk drives, solid-state drives, all-flash arrays (AFAs), Hybrid Flash Arrays (HFAs) and integrated systems combining servers, storage and networking.

In 2015, storage is being used in new ways. Here are some examples:

  • More enterprise data is being archived on the cloud—often in 2 to 3 places for archiving.
  • More data is being retained longer.
  • Security requires new tech to keep hackers out – and to allow IT managers to sleep at night.
  • More use of the open-source software stack for storage systems — including Cassandra, Ceph, and OpenStack.
  • Form-factors are getting smaller, providing more density in less space
  • Video on the Web is driving media/entertainment workloads to adopt more flash
  • Consideration of new technologies, such as optical interconnects, for fast data center fabrics

Bottom Line: Storage Needs to be Fast

Bottom line: Storage needs to be fast – and to expand in capacity as workloads climb into the multi-TB range – but not take up too much space in the data center. So, it’s crystal-clear that operational costs are top-of-mind for many buyers. That’s why storage is being deployed in entirely new ways – as part of the move to software-defined data centers (SDDCs). That’s the challenge of supplying new storage systems to enterprise data centers and cloud/hyperscale data centers. So, vendors must take notice.

For flash technology companies, including SanDisk®, the time is right to market its portfolio of flash-based products to meet a variety of workload types. Flash improves IT efficiency by running workloads faster, and in less data center space, than hard-disk-drives would support. Demand for high performance, with stability and reliability – and capacity – all favor the use of flash-enabled solutions – and I was glad to see the SV2015 speakers being vocal about the growing role of flash for these workloads.

New Adoption Patterns in a New World

What we saw at Storage Visions was that IT will be deploying a mix of products and technologies – and that end-to-end workloads will flow across the tiers of the data center, tying all of that data together. Importantly, the business and IT will need to decide how to “map” the new workloads (video-on-demand, VDI, accelerated databases) to the build-out of data centers.

Infrastructure is Changing:
Facebook is known for redesigning its data centers for the new, hyperscale computing world. Facebook has six defined workloads – and six types of infrastructure to support them. The SV2015 keynote talk by Jeff Qin of Facebook, showed how important flash has become as a key enabler for high-performance workloads. Facebook uses a variety of technologies in its six standard racked server designs deployed worldwide, where flash is being leveraged for high-performance applications that speed response time. This is a great example of a practical application of flash – which is housed in Open Compute Platform “open racks” to match workload needs to the customer’s need for flexible data-center deployments when scaling up. The Facebook presentation showed that its data center SSD-based clusters are housed next to HDD-based clusters that support different workload sets.

Flash Adoption is Growing:
Satish Lakshmanan, Senior Director, Product Management, for SanDisk’s Enterprise Storage Solutions, spoke about “Solving Application Pain-Points Through the Power of Flash Storage in the Cloud”. A quick-take on his talk: Density, acquisition cost and response time matter greatly to IT managers, which is why flash-enabled servers and flash arrays are continuing their growth and adoption in enterprise and cloud data centers. Over time, this will allow flash to replace many aging hard-disk drives (HDDs) in the infrastructure. This will provide a wide-ranging technology refresh, including widespread use of flash. Going forward, in-memory compute technology (IMC) will power faster Analytics required by modern enterprise applications – and process large datasets associated with the Internet of Things (IoT).

End-to-End Solutions Are Taking Hold:
Taking a more holistic view of the entire storage solution is vital to the next generation of data center workloads. That’s because it’s the combination of storage, software and networking that delivers flash-enabled solutions to end-users. Adam Roberts, Chief Solutions Architect for SanDisk Enterprise Storage Solutions, spoke about end-to-end flash-enabled solutions in his talk, “Building a More Efficient Data Center”.

Flash-optimized operating systems like NVMFS, database accelerators like SanDisk’s ZetaScale, and efficient data control, such as that realized with SanDisk/Fusion-io’s “Atomic Writes,” will strip away the inefficiencies associated with legacy HDD data paths, allowing for true end-to-end benefits and maximum use of flash performance. Data center operational costs (opex) will benefit from greater IT efficiency, because flash uses only a fraction of the power and cooling costs associated with many HDD-enabled servers and storage systems.

SanDisk Highlights at StorageVisions 2015

SanDisk’s participation in the Storage Visions 2015 conference highlighted its broad product portfolio, including SanDisk SSD products and Fusion-io products. Its innovative design of the SanDisk Optimus MAX 4TB SAS solid-state drive SSD, announced in April, 2014, won it the Storage Visions 2015 Visionary Products award.


This award showed the importance of a value proposition combining high performance with high density – offering 4TB in a standard SAS SSD form-factor. The packaging of this highly dense SSD allows customers to plug it into any industry-standard SAS storage interface, supporting wide applicability in enterprise and cloud data centers. Importantly, Optimus MAX is designed to reduce operational costs by reducing space and power needs compared to many HDD solutions.

Also at Storage Visions, SanDisk and Diablo Technologies were given the Art of Storage award, which recognizes a product for best-in-class aesthetics, ease of use and industrial design. The award was conferred for the ULLtraDIMM flash-on-the-memory-bus implementation. ULLtraDIMM is a SanDisk flash storage product with an interface to the system memory bus that recognizes the flash as a storage resource. Each ULLtraDIMM has up to 400 GB of storage on-board, and multiple TB of storage are deployed within a given server, by adding ULLtraDIMM to multiple DIMM slots next to the system memory bus. Diablo and SanDisk had partnered to enable that form of flash-memory storage.

Faster Networks and Faster Storage for End-to-End Solutions

End-to-end solutions need faster networks—with higher bandwidth and more data transfers, requiring high IOPS, than in older data centers. With so much data being transferred from consumer devices and sensors to data-center servers, data management will be a strong focus. IT managers must decide whether to assign specific workloads to internal data centers – or to hosters and cloud service providers. They need to see the holistic workloads – as they run across many servers and storage systems.

The storage world – addressing data transfer, data storage and archiving – is being transformed along with the data center. It has to change in order to integrate cloud, virtualization, mobility and Big Data Analytics into the “fabric” of data-center production workloads. As these technologies become everyday requirements for a web-enabled world, flash technology is addressing the need for ever-faster data transfer, and for ever-more efficient use of the data center infrastructure. This is the new reality that speaks to rapid change in today’s enterprise and cloud data centers, worldwide.

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